This paper examines the factors surrounding young refugees’ lives that contribute to protracted uncertainties, and how these uncertainties associated with their social status, managing life in Geneva, and prospects for the future, would be reduced or reinforced when they make their new lives in Geneva. This research also sheds light on the kinds of coping strategies young refugees deploy to minimize their sense of lack of control and precarious survival in the context of exile in Geneva. Notably, Eritrean refugees have recently attracted attention worldwide for their exile from the political instability of their homeland. This research sheds light on certain generational group characteristics of Eritrean refugees and explores how they struggle with the situation. In Switzerland, Eritrean migrants have recently increased in numbers, among whom are mostly young people. Their context of displacement derives from the instability of their country of origin and the duty of conscription to military service at a certain age. The status of Eritrean refugee youth in Geneva is influenced by a political change that might lead to deportation. In the receiving society, there are many supportive organizations or associations which implement social assistance in various domains. For instance, AMIC (l’Association des médiatrices interculturelles) provides programs for empowering Eritrean refugee youth. This research uses a qualitative approach for investigating the uncertainty surrounding Eritrean refugee youth in Geneva, including participant observation both in AMIC’s activities and their social environment, as well as in-depth interviews with 13 young Eritreans. Based on a conceptualization of youth and protracted uncertainty, Eritrean refugee youths’ status is framed by the bureaucratic categorization of “unaccompanied minors” which creates differences among young people’s ability to access social services and makes non-qualified young adults excluded from the services. The youth age migration consists of many factors of uncertainty – memory of pre-migration period, inadequate educational background, incompatibility to new norms and unclear vision of the future. The factors which create differences among young people’s status are intersectional elements, such as arrival age, type of residence permit, and presence of family. The relationship with peers plays an important role in bringing relief and solidarity, however sometimes it leads to tension or embarrassment. Eritrean refugee youth use coping strategies to minimize uncertainty and improve their lives as much as possible by accessing social services, including doing internships that will potentially allow for future employment. Young refugees choose these strategies according to their abilities and at the same time deal with the everyday problems they face.

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Grabska, Katarzyna (Kasia) Elzbieta
Governance, Migration and Diversity (GMD)
International Institute of Social Studies

Honda, Yuri. (2019, December 20). Living with uncertainties : Coping strategies of Eritrean refugee youth in Geneva. Governance, Migration and Diversity (GMD). Retrieved from